Sunday, August 29, 2010



J&R Music’s annual Summerfest is a mixed bag. I’ve seen Teena Marie there doing a full show with live band rivaling any of her paid gigs. I’ve also seen Chaka Khan sing to malfunctioning tracks where I wanted to blow my brains out.
This was somewhere in between.
Ayanna Irish is an attractive, vivacious belter; the young singer won the crowd over in her far too short three song set, which begged the question, “What’s the rush?”
Eli “Paperboy” Reed is a baby-faced young white singer with a killer band and three piece horn section. Reed possesses a solid voice, exhibits strong showmanship, and does tons of catchy up-tempo originals. Thoroughly enjoyable, the set flew by. While he isn’t James Brown or Wilson Pickett, who is? Check him out when you get a chance.
Then came the headliner in Ms. Leela James, a tiny dynamo with a powerful voice and great stage presence. She proceeded to passionately (and repetitively) beat the following points to death:
Leela loves old school soul music.
She only had a short time to play.
And we should buy her CD.
Oh yes, we were reminded again and again that we should buy her CD.
I wouldn’t call this a concert. I wouldn’t even call her thirty-five minutes on stage a set. I guess it would qualify as an appearance. She sang a few songs. In between them, Leela preached the gospel of classic soul (“We have to get back to this.”). She played a recorded snippet from her new CD and sang over it. She also played a recorded snippet of Al Green doing Let’s Stay Together and the band just swayed along to it, looking ecstatic. Which was all good and fine, but when you brave the nightmarish weekend New York City subway system on three trains for an hour fifteen to get there, this wasn’t exactly what you had hoped for.
It was all actually kind of odd if you ask me. When you have a full band and backup singers on a stage ready to go, would an actual set have been too much to ask?
When it was all over, I had a dual reaction to her “show.” Part of me felt ripped off, which is strange considering it was free. And at the same time, I said to myself, “The woman’s a truly great singer and performer. I need to see her at a REAL live show.”
Interestingly enough the ten o’clock local TV news showed a clip from the gig where she waded through the crowd during her finale. There I was standing clear as day with a blank look on my face that read, “Too little, too late, Leela…”
Whatever. Another mixed bag at J&R.

Evan Ginzburg


  1. Hello Mr.Evan Ginzburg, I truely enjoyed reading your article on the J&R Music Fest 2010.
    Thank you for the beautiful and candid remarks on the artist Ayanna Irish, so sorry about the short set but since she was a very late additions to the show...Ayanna was ask by J&R to sing, two songs to music tracks,, Ayanna did something special..she brought her own band and did three song set... thank you again.. please continued to support great music... Mike NYC

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  3. p.s.. Mr. Ginzburg , please take some time and review Ayanna Irish's latest project with
    Michael Jackson's musical director Michael Bearden.... copy and past the link below.